Jan 26, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Back in August, Steve Bush’s modest goal was just trying to take the West Genesee football team he coached to the playoffs — something that hadn’t taken place in either of his first two seasons at the Wildcats’ helm.
Five months and one improbable state championship later, Bush now find himself with a coaching job in the National Football League.
Making the rare jump from the high school ranks to the professional ranks, Bush stepped down as Wildcats coach and accepted an offer to become an offensive assistant for the Miami Dolphins, charged with the task of helping a downtrodden franchise that just finished a 1-15 season.
The news broke on Friday, when Bush told his West Genesee players at a team meeting in the high school cafeteria. No replacement has been named yet.
In going to Miami, Bush reunites with two of his former bosses – one of them Paul Pasqualoni. He worked as quarterbacks coach under Pasqualoni at SU from 2000 until 2004, when both of them were let go.
While Bush took over at West Genesee, Pasqualoni went to the Dallas Cowboys to work on the coaching staff of Bill Parcells, then was retained when Wade Phillips replaced Parcells a year ago.
The Cowboys’ 13-3 regular-season success made two Cowboy assistants popular candidates for head coaching jobs elsewhere in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was one of them, but he turned down offers from Baltimore and Atlanta and returned to the Cowboys, at a salary of $3 million per year.
On the other hand, Tony Sparano, another prized Cowboy assistant, did take the job in Miami after Parcells (now a Dolphins executive) fired Cam Cameron in the wake of the 1-15 debacle.
This was where Bush entered the picture. Sparano decided to take Pasqualoni along with him to Miami, installing the one-time SU coach as his defensive coordinator.
Sparano knew that Pasqualoni and Bush had worked together well — which was good timing, since Sparano had coached alongside Bush at both Boston University and the University of New Haven.
All of these colleagues reunited in Miami last week, and when Sparano offered the assistant job, Bush took it.
The fact that Miami is mired in such difficult times is perfectly fitting for Bush, for he has already shown that he can turn a program around in short order.
When Bush came to West Genesee in 2005, the program had already gone through two coaches in this decade. And at first, Bush was no different, as he went a combined 8-10 in 2005 and 2006, and wasn’t expected to fare much better in 2007 with a new quarterback in Tim Moran and a fierce defense that could force turnovers.
WG started 3-0, upsetting defending state Class AA champion Auburn on Sept. 7, and used late field goals by Luke Cometti to beat both Liverpool and CBA on its way to a 5-1 start and that elusive playoff spots.
Easy post-season wins over Henninger and Liverpool preceded an epochal Section III Class AA final between the Wildcats and Cicero-North Syracuse. The title game wasn’t decided until Moran led his team down the field in the final minute and Cometti hit a field goal with one second left to give WG a 23-21 win, its first sectional championship in nine years.
Union-Endicott and Orchard Park fell in the state playoffs before, on the night of Nov. 25, West Genesee beat Monroe-Woodbury in front of thousands of Camillus residents in the Carrier Dome to earn the first state football title in the program’s history.
So after all this, rescuing the Miami Dolphins might not be such a big chore — and would be easier if the New England Patriots, undefeated and playing in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz., were not around as the AFC East’s premier team.
Still, Bush and his one-time college colleagues are determined to make it happen, hoping that his quantum leap from teaching willing teenagers to coaching willful and well-paid professionals will prove to be a bold — but wise — move.